Two University of Arkansas Community Design Center collaborations and a project designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects have been chosen for final consideration in the 2017 World Architecture Festival Awards, the world's largest architecture design awards program serving the global community.

More than 400 projects from about 50 countries were short-listed across 35 individual award categories for the festival, to be held Nov. 15-17 in Berlin, Germany. Large and small firms will compete as equals this week when presenting their designs to international judging panels and festival delegates. The winner of each category will advance and give a presentation on Nov. 17 to the festival's Super Jury for the overall festival awards, World Building of the Year and Future Project of the Year.

The Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex, one of 15 short-listed projects in the Future Projects-Masterplanning category, is a collaboration between the Community Design Center and the University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability. Both entities are part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

Stephen Luoni, director of the Community Design Center, is a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School. Marty Matlock, executive director of the Office for Sustainability, is a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Engineering.

The proposed Whitmore Community Food Hub would help bring locally produced food to Hawaii, where 93 percent of food is imported. The Food Hub will serve Oahu communities while advancing a "missing middle" agricultural infrastructure template for community-based food production among Hawaii's other islands. Besides providing logistics for an underserved agricultural community, the Whitmore complex serves additional community needs through micro-housing for the agricultural workforce, retail, business incubation and cultural tourism. Ideally, the Food Hub will service all stages of the local food supply chain.

Four principles guided the planning and design of the 34-acre Whitmore Food Hub Complex: logistics, placemaking, connectivity and anchoring. The complex provides a Food Hub that meets the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act. It integrates the logistical spaces of the Food Hub with surrounding neighborhoods through serial public spaces that sponsor multiple uses. It connects the Food Hub and Whitmore Village to downtown Wahiawa. And it uses mixed-use spaces and civic frontages to socialize the Food Hub's big boxes and tilt wall concrete construction.

Greers Ferry Water Garden, also one of 15 short-listed projects in the Future Projects-Masterplanning category, is a collaboration between the UACDC, Marlon Blackwell Architects and Ecological Design Group. 

The Greers Ferry design revives the forgotten vision of Edward Durell Stone, the internationally renowned mid-century architect and native Arkansan, for a national water garden to accompany the Greers Ferry Dam in Heber Springs. The team renovated Stone's 1966 plan, which — created in a much different era — did not account for ecological considerations or visitor-centered approaches to support park operations. His vision deployed late modernist tropes combining monumentality and glamour across the 269-acre site.

The revised design uses architectural structures, botanical displays and walkways to engage and educate the visitor about natural systems in non-traditional ways, and the plan showcases a more place-based expression of each of the garden's four territories. Essentially a heritage preservation project despite not having been built, the 2016 plan shows that preservation can be an innovative platform for reframing and refreshing the contemporary.

"The World Architecture Festival's selection of these three projects, led by Fay Jones School faculty, is an extraordinary honor for all involved, and by extension, for the community of the school," said Dean Peter MacKeith. "The UA Community Design Center is the leading design center in the country, and Marlon Blackwell has been recognized as the No. 1 design architect in the nation. These projects promote their authors, the school and the university to an international audience. We're very proud, but also very grateful to the university for its support of our creative practices."

Harvey Pediatric Clinic, one of 10 short-listed projects in the Completed Buildings-Health category, was designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects. Blackwell is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He is the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture and a Distinguished Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. His professional firm is based in Fayetteville.

Harvey Pediatric Clinic, located in Rogers, echoes the strong form and reduced material palette of the agricultural buildings that once dominated the landscape. A cayenne panel — a custom color developed specifically for the project — wraps the south side of the second level. A mixture of natural and colored light creates spaces that convey reflection and healing.

The building uses shape, form and color to appeal to both children and adults. A ribbon window on the north side of the building reinforces the horizontal nature of the form. The darker, cool gray also used on the north side gives emphasis to the warm, saturated color used on the south. Custom break metal trims are incorporated throughout, allowing the detailing of the skin to reinforce the abstract quality of the building shape. 

AuthorLinda Komlos

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center and the U of A Office for Sustainability, both in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, have received the LafargeHolcim Acknowledgement Award for their collaborative resiliency design work with the city of Conway. This honor comes with a $20,000 prize.

Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center, and Marty Matlock, executive director of the Office for Sustainability, traveled to Chicago to receive the award at the Oct. 12 ceremony. The project, titled “Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape,” was an interdisciplinary collaboration between architects, planners, engineers, economists and ecologists.

It addresses the impact of urbanization on the 42-square-mile urban sub-watershed that incorporates much of Conway. Problems include increased flooding, water quality contamination and property damage.

The three-year project was funded by a $498,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, administered by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, with matching funds from the city of Conway, Faulkner County, the University of Central Arkansas and the Lake Conway Property Owners Association. Undergraduate and graduate students received stipends to support this work.

The Conway framework imagines a cityscape that cultivates a highly livable green urban environment that solves some of the challenges cities face from climate change. These improvements can be made through low-tech/high-concept enhancements to ordinary infrastructure investments already scheduled to serve the city’s growth.

Because urban watershed forest and prairie lands are in direct competition with cities over the very ways in which the surface area should be shaped, this plan proposes a portfolio of infrastructural elements that include green streets, water treatment art parks, urban eco-farms, conservation neighborhoods, parking gardens, riparian corridor improvements, lake aerators, vegetative harvesters and floating bio-mats, and a city greenway. The approach provides city planners and community designers with the tools to create a city with open spaces that reduce the damages from increasingly frequent extreme rainfall events.

The Conway framework plan was released as a book by ORO Editions this month. The book features transferable technology other communities can apply as a design guide for how to build a green city.

The international LafargeHolcim Awards competition is held every three years and recognizes innovative projects and future-oriented concepts on regional and global levels. Each award cycle recognizes 35 projects globally from more than 5,000 submissions from 121 countries. The award juries evaluated projects based on criteria for sustainable construction set forth by the LafargeHolcim Foundation – principles that define sustainable construction in a holistic way. 

The LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, based in Switzerland, was created in 2003 to raise awareness of the important role that architecture, engineering, urban planning and the building industry have in achieving a more sustainable future. This awards competition “seeks projects that go beyond balancing environmental performance, social responsibility, and economic growth. Projects should, in addition, exemplify architectural excellence, a high degree of transferability, and thereby extend notions of sustainable construction and design throughout all stages of a project’s lifecycle,” according to the foundation’s website. 

Luoni is a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School; Matlock is a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Engineering. This is the second LafargeHolcim Award received by the project team of Luoni and Matlock in the program’s 14-year history; they received the 2005 Acknowledgement Award for their work in Warren, Arkansas. This award is the fourth they have received for this project.

For more information on the project, visit the Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan.

AuthorLinda Komlos

A housing master plan study for a community of aging residents has won one of two 2016-17 Housing Design Education Awards from the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

The study, titled “Third Place Ecologies: Pocket Housing Fabrics for Aging in Community,” is a project of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

The center worked with Fay Jones School architecture students in a studio course in spring 2016 to address the housing needs of Freeman, South Dakota, a small town with a population that is largely at or approaching retirement age.

The plan proposes new pocket neighborhood concepts for this aging community – allowing residents to live alone but in close proximity to neighbors and friends. Design concepts such as a connected “hyper-porch” spaces, live-work patios and garages used for pop-up businesses foster both neighborhood interaction and independent living.

The term “third-place ecologies” refers to shared community spaces that aren’t work or home, said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School.

“About 10,000 people a day will turn 65 over the next 20 years, and neither the existing housing stock nor health care system are prepared to serve their social and medical needs,” Luoni said. “Not only is the Baby Boomer generation the most unprepared for retirement, but the pension and caregiving safety net enjoyed by their parents will be overwhelmed and unable to serve their needs.

“We’re looking at reconfiguring single-family housing to support cooperative living without losing the privacy that people like,” he said. “This is a way to solve a gap in the housing needs, as well as address people’s social needs. We’ve created a design guide for non-medical solutions to an emerging public health-care problem.”

An Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts funded the research, as well as future work on an earth arts center for the town.

The master plan illustrates the 21 cooperative living principles developed by the studio for a general neighborhood design that addresses aging populations. These principles are largely common-sense ideas that strive to return a sense of neighborhood community that people once took for granted. Simple measures allow for a shared sense of ownership and connection. These can include sharing meals in a third place (in this case, the hyper-porch), balancing privacy with public spaces by designing glimpses of the street or central court from a residence, and designing porches that open onto the street.

“This work is about code reform and changing mindsets, so we can get to the informality in pre-1920s neighborhoods that made us a powerful economic force,” Luoni said.

This housing master plan study will be published this summer as a book called Houses For Aging Socially: Developing Third Place Ecologies, by ORO Editions.

The project was showcased at the 105th annual meeting of the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture in Detroit last week, and it is featured on the organization’s website.

Each year, the group honors the importance of good education in housing design in a wide range of areas to prepare students to be capable leaders and contributors to their communities.

The Community Design Center has won six of the 25 awards given in the nine-year history of the housing design education awards.

AuthorLinda Komlos

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center, working with the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, has been awarded a 2017 Green Good Design Award for Urban Planning/Landscape Architecture by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum for Architecture and Design.

Known as the “Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape,” the project addresses the impact of urbanization on the 42-square-mile urban sub-watershed that incorporates much of Conway. Problems include increased flooding, water quality contamination and property damage.

“The city has its own flows and networks – and the watershed has its flow dynamics and networks. When you put the two in the same space, it causes a lot of problems, because one hasn’t internalized the dynamics of the other,” said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center and a Distinguished Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. He is also the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies.

The center is an outreach program of the Fay Jones School.

“If we want to have resilient communities, and mitigate the effect of all sorts of forces, from climate change to societal stressors,” Luoni said, “we’re going to have to figure out how to work within human-dominated ecosystems, and develop strategies where urban infrastructure delivers ecosystem services, in addition to the urban services infrastructure has always delivered.”

The project was a collaborative effort between the Community Design Center and Marty Matlock, executive director of the U of A Office for Sustainability and professor of ecological engineering in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

The plan combines traditional constructed hydrology, such as storage tanks and rain bladders, with “soft” engineering, such as bioswales, infiltration zones, rain gardens, water-loving trees and other low-impact development technologies.

“This is soil conservation brought into the urban system,” Matlock said. “It’s this notion that the softscape can be designed to do more than just grow grass, and the hardscape can be designed to do more than just shunt water. That the two of those together could be integrated to create more effective water treatment and more effective water storage in the urban system – to create a more resilient urban ecosystem.”

The three-year project was funded by a $498,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, administered by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, and matching funds from the city of Conway, Faulkner County, the University of Central Arkansas and the Lake Conway Property Owners Association.

Adopted by the city as a guide for future development, the plan provides adaptive infrastructure that a variety of stakeholders can use, including urban planners, architects, designers, builders, property owners, country agents and city council members.

The framework plan will be published as a book by ORO Editions this summer. Conceived as a design guide for how to build a green city, the book will feature transferable technology other communities can use.

The project will be exhibited at venues in Athens, Dublin and Chicago during 2017.

The Green Good Design Award aims to bring public appreciation and awareness to design that emphasizes sustainability and ecological restoration. The framework plan previously won a 2016 American Architecture Award from the same two presenting organizations.

AuthorLinda Komlos

The American Institute of Architects has awarded the University of Arkansas Community Design Center a 2017 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design for its tornado recovery plan “Reinventing Vilonia.”

The small town north of Little Rock was struck by an EF4 tornado in April 2014. The tornado, which also hit nearby Mayflower, was the nation’s deadliest that year, killing 16 people and destroying more than 400 homes in total. Both towns are in Faulkner County, which is considered a “tornado alley,” with more than 40 tornados touching down in the area during the past 50 years.

The Community Design Center worked with citizen-led task forces to develop a plan that highlights resilience as well as recovery, said Stephen Luoni, director of the Community Design Center, a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. The Community Design Center is an outreach program of the Fay Jones School.

During the past 15 years, tornados have set new records for frequency, devastation and wind speed, Luoni said. According to meteorologists, the only safe refuge now is below ground. Even reinforced building cores like bathrooms, closets and stairwells were inadequate in the EF4 storm that hit Vilonia.

“This reinvention plan begins with the urbanization of safety – a strategy to create an underground safe room network that can be used in other middle-America towns in tornado alleys,” Luoni said. The plan requires the development of a new town center to bring people together, combining safe room infrastructure with a park system along a new town loop.

In such a scenario, residents and visitors alike are within a five-minute walk of an underground safe room, Luoni said. The safe room network is constructed from a modulated system of shipping containers that hold between 30 and 240 people. Landmarks pointing to the safe rooms function as community “hearths” – organizing a set of public spaces, such as parks, squares, trails and neighborhood green spaces.

The reinvention plan also focuses on expanding commerce and housing for the rapidly growing area, projected to reach a population of 10,000 from 4,226 by 2030.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency encourages planners to work with the people affected, rather than coming in and imposing their ideas on a neighborhood or town.

“Urbanism realizes FEMA’s ‘whole community approach’ to emergency preparedness, triangulating people, ideas and hardware,” Luoni said.

The Central Arkansas Planning and Development District hired the Community Design Center to work with organizations in Vilonia and Mayflower, with grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Collaborators on the Vilonia project included the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Metroplan and Rebuild Vilonia.

The Community Design Center is one of six design studios in the country designated a Regional Resilience Design Studio by the AIA Foundation, as part of its National Resilience Initiative. The initiative calls for a network of design studios dedicated to helping local communities become better prepared to recover from the impacts of natural disaster and climate change.

“Reinventing Vilonia,” one of five award winners in the category of Regional and Urban Design, will be featured in the May 2017 issue of Architect magazine and at the awards ceremony during the annual AIA Expo and Convention in Orlando in June.

The project previously won a 2016 Urban Design Award from the Arkansas chapter of the American Planning Association and a 2015 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations.

This is the center’s 13th AIA Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design.

AuthorLinda Komlos